Create Peak Moments for a Meaningful Life

Do you know how to create memorable moments in your life?

Are they happening by chance or are you paving the way for them?

Is productivity simply about maximizing output, or is it connected to a deep and deliberate life?

In the competitive, industrial or post-industrial world, productivity is often defined by a simple formula: Output / Input. (Output is ideal output x efficiency). Or Value of Work / Hours Worked. You have metrics like revenue per employee, revenue per hour, and units produced per hour.

From this angle, productivity seems more fitting for machines. But there’s a more positive aspect that is not easily measured. Productivity means being engaged in doing the things you really want to do and doing them really well. It means being empowered to design a well-lived life, which sparks big memories out of tiny moments.

A defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful. It could be a month or a few seconds. These moments often relate to a new job, a new relationship, a relocation, or a vacation.

In episode 19 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn:

1) The four elements of peak moments

  • Elevation – moments of elevation rise above the everyday, above the routine
  • Insight – moments of insight bring realization and transformation
  • Pride – moments of pride capture us at our best
  • Connection – moments of connection are shared with others

2) The acronym EPIC will help you remember the elements, but peak moments don’t have to be epic. They can be small but deeply personal, or painful, yet transformational. 

3) The benefits of peak moments 

  • Make your life more memorable and meaningful
  • Enhance your leadership, teaching and communication skills
  • Create a better experience for customers, clients, patients, students, employees and others
  • Improve your relationships and deepen connections

4) The effects of Duration Neglect and the Peak-End Rule – why we forget the duration of an event or experience and remember fragments of it (peaks, pits, beginnings and endings or transitions)

5) The four types of defining moments 

  • Transitions, which are to be marked. Example – reverse wedding (ritual of transition to remove wedding ring following death of spouse)
  • Peaks, which are to be remembered
  • Pits, which are to be filled 
  • Milestones, which are to be commemorated. Example – GE’s Adventure Series at children’s hospitals (industrial designer and his team shift their focus from the MRI machine to the experience of children getting an MRI done)

6) How to create peak moments

  • Moments of Elevation – boost the sensory appeal; raise the stakes; break the script
  • Moments of Insight – trip over the truth; stretch for insight
  • Moments of Pride – give specific, sincere recognition; multiply milestones; preload your response in advance
  • Moments of Connection – shared laughter; shared purpose and mission; shared struggles and challenges

Resources cited: 

  • Chip Heath & Dan Heath, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact

To listen to episode 19, Create Peak Moments for a Meaningful Life, click here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

If you prefer to read, download Transcripof episode 19.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps

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U.S. Immigration Risks in Claiming F-1 OPT or H-1B Status When There is No Real Job

Are you an F-1 student or H-1B worker who claimed to work for a U.S company when there was no actual job?

Did the company issue W2s or pay stubs showing you were paid when you really were not?

If you seek to maintain F-1 OPT, F-1 STEM OPT or H-1B status through employment – when there is no real job – you run the risk of being found inadmissible under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i). This law states that you have a lifetime bar if you engage in fraud or willful misrepresentation of a material fact to obtain a U.S. immigration benefit.

Being inadmissible disqualifies you from getting a change or extension of status, a new visa, or lawful entry to the United States. While a 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver or I-601/INA 212(i) immigrant waiver might solve the issue, it doesn’t work in every case. It’s best to avoid a fraud/misrepresentation charge altogether.

Episode 11 of The Legal Immigrant podcast covers:

1) The different contexts in which U.S. Customs & Border Protection, USCIS and U.S. Embassies and Consulates can make the 212(a)(6)(C)(i) charge 

2) F-1 OPT and STEM OPT rules to follow

  • Time restrictions for submitting Form I-765, application for employment authorization
  • Unemployment grace period of 90 days for F-1 OPT and an additional 60 days for F-1 STEM OPT (i.e. total of 150 days during entire post-completion OPT period)
  • F-1 OPT and F-1 STEM OPT must involve at least 20 hours of work related to field of study
  • F-1 may include a paid job, a paid internship, an unpaid internship, volunteer work, contract work, agency work, or self-employment
  • F-1 STEM OPT must include paid employment with a company that is enrolled in the E-Verify program

3) Immigration fraud investigations and related problems

  • Many F-1 and H-1B visa holders, particularly from China, get their visas revoked or denied or are refused entry to the United States because they had listed Findream or Sinocontech to receive work authorization
  • F-1 and H-1B visa holders, most from India, face U.S. immigration and visa problems if they listed companies like Integra Technologies LLC, AZTech Technologies, Andwill, Wireclass or Tellon Trading to obtain OPT, STEM OPT or other work permit
  • Problems include refusal of entry to the US, visa denials, visa revocations, and denials of change/extension of status requests. In some cases, a 212(a)(6)(C)(i) charge is made.

4) 3 key indicators that the petitioner or employer may be flagged 

  • Does the company require you to pay a training fee, including before it issues the job offer letter or Form I-983 training plan? 
  • Does the company fail to assign roles and responsibilities as stated in the job offer letter, Form I-983 for STEM OPT, or Form I-129 Petition for H-1B? 
  • Does the company offer employment verification, pay stubs and W2s when there was actually no real work or no pay received for an F-1 STEM OPT or H-1B position?

5) The longer you are associated with a flagged company, the more U.S. immigration risks and visa problems you will have

  • As soon as you find out there’s no real job, move on quickly. 
  • You might be tempted to use fake employment to maintain status or stop the accrual of unlawful presence. But you run the risk of not only falling out of status, but also being charged with a lifetime inadmissibility bar under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i). 
  • US immigration agencies are less forgiving when it comes to a fraud or misrepresentation charge because it means you’ve been found to have lied to the U.S. government to gain an immigration benefit. 

Subscribe to The Legal Immigrant podcast at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

If you prefer to read, download transcript of episode 11.

For more information, see:

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The Legal Immigrant podcast and this article provide general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for your situation. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Make Time for Daily Highlights, The Incrementalist, Ep. 18

Do your big goals take the joy out of your daily life?

Do you feel like you’re wasting time if you’re not powering through your to-do list?

Are you distracted by streaming media, like Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter?

Are you postponing when to start because you don’t know where you’ll end up?

The space between the small tasks and the big goals is the sweet spot. It’s where you savor the moment (the now), while you say no to things that don’t matter and yes to the things that do.

To get off the Busyness Bandwagon, stay out of Infinity Pools, and make time for what matters, you choose your highlight for the day. Then apply laser focus, energize and reflect.

The Busyness Bandwagon is the culture of constant busyness. In the high tech, modern world, busyness is a status symbol – the busier you are, the more in demand you are, and the more successful you become. That’s the common belief.

Infinity Pools are apps, services and products that have infinite content and are always on.  There’s social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; video streaming like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime, and web browsers like Safari, Google Chrome, and Bing, which give you 24/7 access to information around the world. You can dip back into Infinity Pools at any time to find fresh content. There’s always more water in the pool.

In episode 18 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn:

1.  Why it’s important to get off the Busyness Bandwagon and avoid Infinity Pools

2.  Four steps to repeat daily to make time for what matters – 

  • Highlight – choose your highlight of the day (i.e. identify the one big thing to do today, which ideally will take 60 to 90 minutes)
  • Laser – beat distractions like social media, email and news feeds (i.e. find laser mode to focus on the big thing)
  • Energize – build energy in your body and brain (i.e. have the energy to do the big thing)
  • Reflect – decide which tactics you want to keep, drop or tweak (i.e. determine what worked and what didn’t work in making time for the big thing)

3. Three strategies to choose your highlight – 

  • Urgency – what’s the most pressing thing I have to do today? 
  • Satisfaction – which highlight will bring me the most satisfaction? 
  • Joy – when I reflect on today, what will bring me the most joy? 

4. Tactics to build laser focus, recharge your body and brain, and reflect on your day to decide on what to do tomorrow

Resources cited: 

  • Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky, Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day 
  • The Incrementalist podcast, Ep. 16, Hack Back Email

To listen to episode 18, Make Time for Daily Highlights, click here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps

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Smart Note-Taking for Productivity, The Incrementalist, Ep. 17

Are you skilled at remembering and retaining what you read?

Do you integrate key lessons into your life and work?  

If you’re tasked with a writing project, do you have a reliable system for organizing ideas and forming your own insights?

Are you starting from a blank slate or from a solid foundation when you write?

We all write on some level. We write research papers, articles, blog posts, essays, books, memos, reports and the daily, basic stuff.  Students, academic researchers, lawyers and content creators, for example, write a lot. Even if you don’t consider writing a part of your profession or vocation, your ability to take smart notes will carry you forward.

The main goal of smart note-taking is not to stay informed. It’s to increase understanding and build your knowledge base, which you can apply to your creative projects and productive work.

You learn best when you connect ideas and evaluate the information. Does this confirm, contradict, or add to your existing knowledge? Have you mastered the subject enough to explain it or teach it to others through a presentation, an article, or a paper? How will your knowledge hold up in a test or in a real-world situation?

In episode 17 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn:

1) The difference between being familiar with a subject and actually knowing it

2) Why writing is a core part of the thinking process, i.e. the medium in which you think and not the outcome of your thinking

3) The Zettelkasten slip box method for smart note-taking, which was invented by Niklas Lumaan – a German sociologist who published at least 58 books and nearly 400 scholarly articles on various topics

4) The three types of notes to make –

  • Fleeting notes, e.g. highlighting and underlining text; jotting down quick notes
  • Literature notes, e.g. writing notes in your own words for future projects
  • Permanent notes, e.g. storing notes in the Zettlekasten for long-term knowledge

5) The “reference slip box” is for source citations and brief notes while the “main slip box” is for permanent notes

6) The profound benefits of having an external system for note-taking and managing knowledge –

  • you have a standardized, process-oriented method for organizing ideas and retrieving them
  • you create bottom-up work so you’re not starting from scratch or with a blank slate
  • you avoid the linear path to writing and instead pull from existing notes and ideas
  • you learn more and apply more from your reading
  • you become a more critical and original thinker

Resources cited:

  • Sönke Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers

To listen to episode 17, Smart Note-Taking for Productive Work, click here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps

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Hack Back Email, The Incrementalist, Ep. 16

Do you get stressed out by the sheer number of emails in your inbox?

Are you checking and responding to emails when you really need to be doing your core work?

Do you get anxious if you don’t respond right away to customers, clients, colleagues, coworkers, friends?

Are you switching to emails when you feel bored, frustrated, or stuck on a project?


Email processing is a repeated behavior and repetitive action.

Email is a habit-forming tool. It’s a key method for communication, collaboration and information sharing. You need to know how to use it to make essential progress without getting sidetracked by other people’s agendas. 

When you’re being responsive and responsible, you can easily slip into reactive mode. You end up neglecting important work that is less urgent but brings more long-term value. 

With the rise in social media, texting, and messaging platforms like Slack, some might say email is dead. But email continues to be alive and well. 

In episode 16 of The Incrementalist podcast, you will learn:

1. Internal triggers (e.g. boredom, anxiety, frustration) and external triggers (e.g. pings and dings) lead to distraction

2. The critical question to ask in deciding whether an external trigger is helpful or not

3. The opposite of distraction is traction

4. Time spent on email = the number of messages received multiplied by the average time spent per message.  T = n x t

5. Seven tips to hack back email –

  • Stop the influx at its source.
  • Process your email, instead of just check, scan or read your email.
  • Block time for batch processing your email.
  • Close out or shut down email when you’re doing focused work. And switch off auto-alerts.
  • Take email off your phone or handheld device.
  • Use proper email etiquette. 
  •  Improve your workflow to reduce back and forth communication. 

6. A dysfunctional workplace – where you are always connected – is the real culprit. Tech overuse creates a vicious cycle of responsiveness, where you have less control over your time, think you need to be always available to get ahead, and set expectations to be always on.

At indistractable organizations, leaders set examples for doing focused work and acknowledge the problems of 24/7 access.

Resources cited: 

To listen to episode 16, Hack Back Email, click here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps

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